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Paladin’s Picks: Top 5 RPG Games for PC

I love video games. Yes…that does sound like an opening statement only Captain Obvious would use, but it’s true. I am an avid gamer who is fascinated by not only the games themselves, but by the industry itself as well.

Throughout my years as a gamer, I’ve played almost every genre of game available, with the exception of most sports-based games (does MLB Baseball for the original Nintendo count?). From the early text-based adventures, to the shoot-em-up first-person shooters, to the story-rich RPGs, I have masqueraded as a variety of player characters through countless worlds, scenarios, and adventures.

Role-playing games are definitely my preferred stomping ground, and here’s a showcase of my top five RPGs for PC of all time.

  1. Ultima VII: The Black Gate– This game had it all. Groundbreaking graphics, a rich, in-depth story that evolved from a simple murder mystery to the introduction of Britannia’s arch-nemesis, and an advanced inventory system that let you revel in your inner-hoarder. U7 also introduced a fully interactive world. Almost every object could be touched, used, opened, or even eaten, opening up a whole new game experience. The Avatar did not stand alone, as both new and recurring companions shared your trials and hardships with you, and you could tweak the AI controls over respective party members. And thanks to the team at Exult, you can enjoy this timeless classic over and over and over again.
  2. Diablo II – Although not a true RPG in the standard definition, this hack-and-slash dungeon crawler made my list on sheer principle. The Diablo series has spawned numerous imitators, but like the Highlander, there can be only one. In Diablo II, you chose from among five character classes to partake in a battle royale against hordes of enemies and big bad bosses. Many weekends were spent in classic old-school LAN style, fueled by caffeine and scouring endless dungeons for matched epic set pieces.
  3. Baldur’s Gate 2: The Shadows of Ahm – I’m a Baldur’s Gate fan to the core, and the second of the series kept me glued to my keyboard clocking some serious gaming hours. From the moment my character escaped the wicked experimentations of Jon Irenicus all the way to the epic ending battle in the subterranean abyss, I was mesmerized by the in-depth story and and how actions you took in-game affected the way your adventure played out. In addition, BG2 served up some lovable (and some not-so-lovable) characters, including the big, burly berserker Minsc and his miniature, giant space-hamster, Boo. “Go for the eyes, Boo!” was his battle cry, and you will find this phrase popping up with cheeky deference in games such as Dragon Age and Mass Effect 2.
  4. Neverwinter Nights – Neverwinter Nights served up a heaping platter of D&D goodness. Starting with character creation, I’m sure I spent at least an hour custom tailoring my Paladin (of course) with feats, abilities, and appearance options. The game’s story line was great – at the Neverwinter Academy, you rose from the ranks of obscurity to become the city’s champion against the Wailing Death; a mysterious plague that is robbing citizens of their lives. Although the Henchman AI was a little quirky, it was rewarding learning more about your followers through each of their individual quest lines. Another great feature of NWN was the Aurora Toolset, which allowed you to easily create your own campaign modules and share them with your friends or online with the NWN community.
  5. Oblivion – The fourth game in the Elder Scrolls series follows in the great tradition of its predecessors. Take everything you know about traditional RPGs (be a hero, follow a linear line of quests, rescue the princess, save the world) and throw it out the window. This game lets you unearth your own creativity from the get-go with non-standard player characters. Want to be a fireball-flinging warrior who can rock stealth with the best of them? Go for it. Oblivion’s open ended quests, lush graphics, and breathtaking landscapes redefine the RPG genre.

What are your favorite RPG games for the PC? I’d love to know, so drop a line below!

You don’t have to be a social butterfly to enjoy games like World of Warcraft

Kylessa_Elune

Rawr

I’ve been playing World of Warcraft off and on for several years (…and just for the record: yes, I’m a girl and no, I don’t live in my parent’s basement). I resisted the pull of MMOs long before I ever found WoW, largely due to the fact that I do not consider myself a “social” gamer. It’s not that I feel I should be wearing a sign that reads, “Does Not Play Well With Others,” it’s just that when I play video games, I find it difficult to immerse myself within the story that is unfolding on my screen if I’m having to drown out the insipid chatter of 13 year olds yelling, “DOOD, I JUST PWND U!” Okay…maybe I should be wearing a sign…

When I play socially, I like to play with people I know. Maybe I’ve seen Meet the Parents one too many times…you have to be in my circle of trust before I’ll give you gun cover with my AK-47 as you dive through a slavering group of hungry zombies. I’m not an elitist bitch, I swear, but when the smoke clears, I’d rather give that virtual high-five to someone who doesn’t sound like they’ve been playing Russian roulette with the English language.

When I was first introduced to WoW, I expected its gaming community to be filled to the rafters with trite in-your-face commentary, thus ruining my gaming experience. What I didn’t expect is how easy it would be to drown out the background noise and actually become absorbed with the rich story, entertaining quests, and challenging dungeons. And once I did, I was pleasantly surprised when I became acquainted with some real nice folks.

I thought that by playing a MMO, that meant you had to be a social butterfly, join an uber-guild, start speaking l33t, and otherwise act like a giant tool. And while some people choose to play like that, it’s not those people that shape my gaming experience. Multi-player games, at least in my pre-WoW opinion, were games that you could play in co-op or death match modes with a small, select group of friends, thus placing your overall game play in a shiny, protective bubble. But with technologies like XboxLive and other online gaming collaboratives combined with cheap high-speed internet, the art of social gaming has quickly become a standard way to play.

There are over 11.4 million World of Warcraft subscribers – people that open themselves up to one of the largest online gaming experiences currently available. I’m one of them. I can choose to quest solo, or I can dip into the multi-player pool if I want. I can be as social (or anti-social) as I want. I can play with people I know in the Really-Real-World, or join an unknown group of nameless avatars. The great thing is that it’s entirely up to me to play the game however I want.

Remember, all things (including video games) should be taken in moderation. If you’re on a 36-hour straight WoW bender, it might be time to step away from the keyboard and get some fresh air. Ragnaros will still be there when you get back.

Santa baby, put some Skyrim under the tree for me…

Skyrim Dragonborn

You are the Dovahkiin, or Dragonborn. Slaying dragons is in your blood.

When I was a kid, I remember the feeling of utter anticipation as Christmas approached. As the day of ultimate joy and merriment neared, I would become a restless, fidgety zombie, fueled by sugar and plagued by visions of the piles of presents that would await my brother and I on Christmas morning (…in my visions, my present-pile was always larger than his).

Waiting for the release of the next installment in the Elder Scrolls series is just like that…only worse because now I’m an adult, and if I run around in excited circles chanting and foaming at the mouth, someone is going to lock me away or treat me for rabies.

I don’t think there’s a doubt in anyone’s mind that Skyrim is this year’s most anticipated game release. The exceptional talent at Bethesda Studios have been hard at work since 2008 to deliver into our eager hands the fifth chapter in the Elder Scrolls series. Set in the frigid northern reaches of Tamriel, the province of Skyrim is beset with civil unrest over the possibility of seceding from the Empire. As foretold within the pages of prophecies known as the Elder Scrolls, the God of Destruction, Alduin, has arisen and torments the nation with his minions. Black dragons fill the skies, bringing terror and chaos throughout the realm.

Like the series predecessors, you will begin the game in prison for unknown crimes. Your transgressions aren’t really important as you get to start the game with a clean slate absolved of your sins. You are the last of the Dovahkiin, the Dragonborn race. As the name implies, fighting dragons is in your genes and what you do best, and you are humanity’s best hope at quelling the dark forces that threaten to sunder the land.

Skyrim is powered by the all-new Creation engine, built internally by the folks at Bethesda to showcase the game’s breathtaking mechanics. Featuring advanced draw-distance renders, you will be able to openly view the vast scenery that encompasses approximately 16 miles. Dynamic lighting delivers a heightened sense of realism not only in the minutely detailed landscape, but also in the characters and creatures that inhabit the world.

Speaking of creatures…the Radiant AI system that controls NPCs has been improved as well, offering more natural interactions with the locals in the game. Conversations with NPCs will now be delivered real-time, meaning that while you’re grilling the tavern barkeep for the latest rumors in town, he’ll be answering your inquiries while pouring drinks for the drunken bar patrons. Bethesda promises to breathe new life into the way characters and creatures react and interact with the world around them.

Dragons (yes, dragons!) play an integral part of the game as well, for what would be the point of being the last of the Dragonborn if there were no dragons to slay? Encounters with these titanic beasties will be randomly generated and not all meetings will result in a battle, although the ones that do will require you to use all of your skills to be victorious. Doing so will reward you with a powerful form of magic that only a Dovahkiin can use – the Dragon Shout.

The Elder Scrolls series has always been known for its highly detailed and colossal living worlds, and Skyrim will be no exception. With five major cities even larger than the ones featured in Oblivion, not to mention dozens of smaller towns and over 150 dungeons that scale to your level, the hand-crafted world of Skyrim is guaranteed to clock massive amounts of game play hours.

Skyrim Horse

The world of Skyrim is huge. Having a trusty steed will get you where you need to go faster.

For more information on Skyrim and to check out a drool-worthy trailer, click here. Until then, I’ll be climbing the walls in anxious anticipation and trying hard to stay off of Santa’s shit-list. Christmas comes early this year with the release of Skyrim on 11-11-11.

A gamer is born…

Gamer

For the love of the Game

Gamers come from all walks of life. Men, women, and children…young, old, or somewhere in between. They are the near-invincible youths that command the leaderboards in FPS games like Call of Duty. They are the suburban soccer moms who pass the time in between loads of laundry harvesting crops in Farmville. They find themselves standing toe-to-toe against the evil king in a heroic quest to rescue the Princess and save the land from oppressive tyranny.

A gamer traverses variegated landscapes of unending imagination, transported to another place in time through a console or PC, handheld or smart phone. Their tools of the trade includes keyboards, controllers, and joysticks, and each wields their weapon of choice with their own unique sense of style.

Every gamer has to start somewhere, as an inexperienced beginner rising through the ranks, awkwardly brandishing their controller and mashing buttons as though their life depended on it. Practice, determination, and the heady taste of victory results in understanding, and with understanding comes enlightenment.

A gamer is born, arising from the pit of noob like a legendary phoenix from the ashes, and on a quest for neverending glory. The path of heroism is long and arduous, and measured in experience points, achievement unlocks, and epic loot drops that lead to shouts of exultation…WOOT!

No matter what type of gamer you are, be it the hardcore fragger, the reigning champion of RPGs, the social player of MMOs, or the casual flinger of Angry Birds…there’s a common bond that unites us all…the passion to play the game.

What type of games do YOU play? I’d love to know, so drop a comment below!

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